SHU’s Art Gerckens Honored for Volunteerism
n recognition of his participation on a task force created to help save St. Mary-St. Michael School in Derby, Connecticut, from closure, Arthur T. Gerckens, the manager of the Mail and Duplicating Center at Sacred Heart University, was recognized with a 2010 St. John Neumann Award for Volunteer Service from the Archdiocese of Hartford and a Pioneer Award from the SHU Alumni Association.
The Neumann Award, which was presented Sept. 26 at the 33rd annual HOPES Dinner at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville, honors men and women who have given generously of their time and talent in support of Catholic school education in the Archdiocese by serving their parish schools. The Pioneer Award, which was presented during SHU’s Homecoming celebration the following weekend, is given to individuals who have made an impact through service in their community or for other humanitarian efforts that reflect the University’s mission.
Gerckens, a Derby resident and 1998 graduate of SHU with a Bachelor of Science degree in English, has long had ties to St. Mary-St. Michael School. He and his wife, Patsy, are alumni of the K-8 school, and their 11-year-old twins, Ashley and Brittany, are among its current students. Volunteering first as a coach for his daughters’ sports teams, Gerckens has gradually become more and more involved with the school.
Last year, when the school faced financial challenges that threatened its long-term viability, Gerckens and other concerned parents formed a task force to address these challenges with positive action. After meeting with the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, Dale R. Hoyt, the assistant superintendents and the director of school finance, the task force was given the opportunity to develop a financial plan that would place the school on firm financial footing and secure its future. Despite a short timeline and the inherent difficulty of such an undertaking, the task force was committed to making the most of this opportunity, and Gerckens was at the forefront of their efforts.
Following the archdiocesan meeting, Gerckens said, “I lay awake thinking, ‘Well, how can we put a financial plan together?’ and I realized that I work for a school – a much larger one, of course – but Sacred Heart has certainly confronted some of the same challenges. So I did some research to see how SHU handles budgeting and plans of operations, and much of the plan came together from that. Within three to five days, we had an outline of where we were going. We got our committee together, and we just hammered out a financial plan for the school.”
Creating the plan was just the first step and much work still remains to be done to maintain St. Mary-St. Michael’s long term viability. However, the importance of the task force’s work cannot be overstated. According to Superintendent Hoyt, “We were impressed, not only with the committee’s commitment to the school, but with the results of their hard work, and it was vital that their plan be supported and nurtured. The progress made since the creation of the plan has been outstanding and they are to be congratulated for their dedication to the school and to Catholic school education.”
In addition to his volunteer work with St. Mary-St. Michael School, Gerckens is the financial secretary of the Knights of Columbus Council 14611; a past president of the Association of College and University Mail Services; and a member of the National Postal Customer Council Advisory Board.